|Tunica Hills - photo by Darrell Chitty|
While many visitors continue to enjoy the plantation homes, where history is now presented in a more realistic version and hands-on demonstrations make it come alive, others are looking for more active pursuits. The St. Francisville area is uniquely suited to satisfy their wildest desires, from bicycle races through the steep hilly terrain to warrior dashes across firepits and mudholes, from waterfall hikes to birding in the same woodlands that inspired the artist Audubon in the 1820s.
|Greenwood Plantation - by Anne Butler|
And then there’s the infamous 8-mile wooded mountain bike trail called The Beast that crisscrosses the creeks and hollows of the 200-acre West Feliciana Parish Sports Park, where the challenging Warrior Dash is also set; the world’s largest obstacle course, the annual dash takes place in numerous locations across the country and world with thousands of participants slipping and sliding through grueling 5-K Mud Runs, the individual participants often raising funds for St. Jude’s Hospital and other worthy causes.
Hiking in the Tunica Hills, Cat Island and just across the Mississippi state line in the Clark Creek Natural Area with its scenic waterfalls is especially popular in the fall and winter, while the Nature Conservancy’s Mary Ann Brown Preserve and the shorter trails at the Audubon State Historic Site are child-friendly and not as demanding. Birders find the wilderness areas full of both resident and migratory birdlife, and Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, with its rare cyclical flooding from Mississippi River overflow and its old-growth cypress trees, provides a prime observation area for migratory waterfowl. The Tunica Hills and Cat Island woodlands and swamps are filled with whitetail deer and smaller game animals, so the areas attract hunters during season.
|Rosedown Plantation - by D. Chitty|
Located on US Highway 61 on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA, and
Natchez, MS, the St. Francisville area is a year-round tourist destination. A number of splendidly restored plantation homes are open for tours daily: the Cottage Plantation, Butler Greenwood Plantation, the Myrtles Plantation, Greenwood Plantation, plus Catalpa Plantation by reservation; Afton Villa Gardens and Imahara’s Botanical Garden are spectacular. Particularly important to tourism in the area are its two significant state historic sites, Rosedown Plantation and Oakley Plantation in the Audubon state site, which offer fascinating living-history demonstrations most weekends to allow visitors to experience 19th-century plantation life and customs (state budget constraints have unfortunately shuttered Oakley Sunday and Monday).
The nearby Tunica Hills region offers unmatched recreational activities in its unspoiled wilderness areas—hiking, biking, birding, photography, hunting. There are unique art galleries plus specialty and antiques shops, many in restored historic structures, and some nice restaurants throughout the St. Francisville area serving everything from ethnic cuisine to seafood and classic Louisiana favorites. For overnight stays, the area offers some of the state’s most popular Bed & Breakfasts, including historic plantations, lakeside clubhouses and beautiful townhouses right in the middle of St. Francisville’s extensive National Register-listed historic district, and there are also modern motel accommodations for large bus groups.
For visitor information, call St. Francisville Main Street at 225-635-3873 or West Feliciana Tourist Commission at 225-6330 or 225-635-4224; online visit www.stfrancisvillefestivals.com, www.stfrancisville.net or www.stfrancisville.us (the events calendar gives dates and information on special activities, including the Farmers Market on Thursday mornings).